Recovery of wastes
Recycling is perhaps the most widely recognised form of source reduction involving the pr ocess of separating, collecting, processing , marketing and ultimately using a material that would have otherwise been discarded. This form of source reduction, i.e., recyclin g, is similar to other forms, in that it:
ü lessens reliance on landfills and incinerators;
ü protects human health and the environment by removing harmful s ubstances from the waste stream;
ü conserves natural resources by reducing the demand for raw materials .
Recycling is o ne of the fundamental parts of the waste management plan. Although it alone cannot solve a community's municipal SWM pro blem, it can divert a significant portio n of waste stream from disposal in landfill and combustion facilities. Recycling has a lot of direct and indirect significance f or the society, and this can be grouped under the following three broad areas.
(i) Economic significance: Economic assessment of waste recycling is a difficult task as many of the beneficial environmental and social impacts of recyc ling are long- term and are intangible, and, therefore, are difficult to quantify.
Some of the short- and lon g-term economic benefits are:
Cost reduction: Resource recovery through recycling of solid waste could be of interest to waste manag ement authorities as a means of reducing the w aste disposal cost. Any saving in waste management cost could be a significant incentive to the authorities to increase the coverage of service areas and improve the service level. They can save cost from fuel fo r transportation, operation and maintenance, and generate revenue by sale of recyclables , etc.
Employment: Recycling of waste is a labour intensive activity, and its potential to ease the unemployment problem is high. Enhanced recycl ing activities, for example, can create an additional job market for skilled and unskilled workforce, and they can adapt to any of the occupations such as a labourer in recycling business or industry or a dealership. Energy saving: Use of r ecyclables in some industrial processes is known to consume less energy than the use of any other raw material. The reduction in energy consumption in one industry could mean its availability for some other indus try in need.
Reduced health care costs: Improved health and sanitary conditions in urban areas resulting from indirect benefits of waste recycling can reduce t he investment in public health programme.
Saving costs for other public utilities: Enhanced solid Waste recycling practices can redu ce the frequency of sewer clogging, blocking of natural watercourses and pollution of water bod ies. This will benefit the concerned public utilities through reduce d cost in cleaning sewers and improved public safety due to blocked sewers and narrowing of natural watercourses.
(ii) Environmental and he alth significance: The volume of waste is increasing rapidly because of populatio n growth and economic development. The composition Of waste is also changing, leading to waste production with more recyclables. At the same time, polluted waste fraction s are increasing because of increasing complex processes being used in industries, and these contribute increasingly to e nvironmental degradation. This notwithstan ding, recycling helps, among others, in the following ways, to facilitate effective waste management: be due to
Improved en vironment: The environmental pollution may inadequate SWM as well as due to its effect on other urban infrastructure. Recycling reduces the volu me of waste that has to be finally dumped, and thereby causing reduction in pollutio n at the waste disposal sites. When there is reduction in volume of waste because of i ts increased reuse, different types of pollution (e .g., water, air and land) will get abated.
Natural resource conservation: Industries with natural pro ducts as their raw material for production are depleting natural resources. Use of more and more recyclable solid wastes in industrial production will relieve the tremendous pressure on these precious resources. For example, recycling of waste paper means a lower demand for wood, which means less cutting of trees and an enhanced possibility for sustainable use of the forest. Using recyclable items in the production process would reduce the demand for energy as well.
(iii) Social significance: People engaged in waste collection a ctivities are normally of low social and e conomic standing. This is especially true wit h scavengers, which is evident from persisting poor quality of their living and working conditions. Different groups of people engaged in waste recycling have a hierarchical social and economic status, in which, processors are at the top of the hierarchy followed by waste dealers and wholesalers, waste buyers and waste collectors in that very order, while scavengers are at the bottom. Although there is this social and economic hierarchy within the waste recycling business, the overall social esteem of waste recycling operators is low.
A formal recycling arrangement will help promote the social esteem of waste workers and facilitate their upward social mobility due to increased earning. In addition, the improved recycling activity will increase the economic value of the waste and will reduce waste scavenging activity providing opportunity for scavengers to switch to a more socially acceptable occupation. In short, institutionalised recycling programmes will help remove the stigma associated with waste scavenging and transform it to an economic enterprise.